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Question Marks At Inside Linebacker

Posted Jun 2, 2011

Inside linebacker was a productive position for the Redskins last year. Could 2010 fourth-round draft pick Perry Riley get a chance next season?


One of the steadiest and most productive positions on the Redskins' defense last year was inside linebacker.

Starters London Fletcher and Rocky McIntosh finished first and second on the team with 188 and 155 tackles, respectively.

As long as he is healthy, Fletcher is the likely starter at one inside linebacker position. A respected team leader, he has earned Pro Bowl berths each of the last two years.

However, it’s uncertain if McIntosh – as well as veteran backup H.B. Blades – will be back with the team next season.

If McIntosh departs, the Redskins could look internally for a replacement.

In addition to Fletcher, McIntosh and Blades, the roster of inside linebackers includes third-year player Robert Henson and second-year player Perry Riley.

Combined, they have appeared in 14 career games, with no starts, and posted nine tackles. Their contributions have been primarily on special teams.

One advantage this group has, however, is youth.

“We’d like to have guys on the younger side,” head coach Mike Shanahan said after last season. “Number one will be character – besides playing ability – and hopefully some youth. We want to have people that enjoy playing football and we want to be an organization that is going to give them the best chance to win.”

Riley made a favorable impression on the coaching staff in limited action. The fourth-round pick compiled three tackles on defense and seven on special teams.

His most notable play was a disappointing one, though; he was flagged for an illegal block on a punt return by Brandon Banks, nullifying a touchdown.

Henson was playing at a high level in preseason last year before a knee injury derailed his season. In the Redskins’ preseason finale vs. Arizona, he logged seven tackles and a sack in one half.

Coaches saw enough from Henson to put him on injured reserve – instead of an injury settlement and release – to give him another chance in 2011.

Blades has been a consistent force on special teams during his tenure with the Redskins. His best season on defense came in 2008 when he started five games at linebacker.

Another possibility could be Lorenzo Alexander, who transitioned to outside linebacker last year but has the skills and the versatility to play inside as well.

The Redskins could look to free agency to address inside linebacker. The emphasis is finding the right player to fit the system.

“You have to bring in the right guys,” Fletcher said at the end of the 2010 season. “Not necessarily the biggest-name guys, but the ones that are going to fit into what we are trying to do as a team – buy into what we want to do and help us get to where we want to be.”